A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday & Weekday Liturgy

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (Series 18, n. 5)

Holy Family – Christmas: December 29, 2019 – January 4, 2020

 

 

(The pastoral tool BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD: A LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY & WEEKDAY LITURGY includes a prayerful study of the Sunday liturgy from various perspectives. For the Lectio Divina on the liturgy of the past week: December 23-28, 2019 please go to ARCHIVES Series 18 and click on “Advent Week 4 - Christmas”.

 

Below is a LECTIO DIVINA APPROACH TO THE SUNDAY - WEEKDAY LITURGY: December 29, 2019 – January 4, 2020.)

 

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December 29, 2019: THE HOLY FAMILY OF JESUS, MARY AND JOSEPH

  “JESUS SAVIOR: He Makes Us Members of God’s Family”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Sir 3:2-6, 12-14 // Col 3:12-21 or 3:12-17 // Mt 2:13-15, 19-23

 

 

I. BIBLICO-LITURGICAL REFLECTIONS: A Pastoral Tool for the LECTIO

 

A. Gospel Reading (Mt 2:13-15, 19-23): “Take the child and his mother and flee into Egypt.”

          

The gripping drama of the Holy Family’s flight to Egypt is replicated through the ages in the lives of many distressed, persecuted families who have the grace and strength to fight for their survival. Peter Lane Taylor’s story, “The Cave Dwellers” (Reader’s Digest, January 2005, p. 134-141) narrates the torturous experience of several Jewish families in Ukraine who literally went underground in order to escape the Nazis.

 

The night of October 12, 1942, Zaida Stermer, his wife, Esther, and their six children dug up possessions hidden behind their house, loaded wagons with food and fuel, and quietly fled into the darkness. Traveling with them were their relatives the Dodyks and other neighbors from the village of Korolowka. They were going to a cavern near Esther’s family home. There they lived for six months, until they were discovered by the Gestapo – and only narrowly escaped. For the next two months, they moved from place to place, hiding in the forests and in barns, searching for a permanent refuge. In desperation, the Stermer’s eldest son, Nissel, went to a Christian friend, Munko Lubudzin, a forester who lived in the woods near Korolowka, and asked for help. Munko told Nissel about Priest’s Grotto, a sinkhole a few miles outside of town – so called because it was located in the fields of a local priest. (…)

 

On May 5, 1943, the Stermers, the Dodyks, and various other relatives and friends, including Karl Kurtz – 38 in all – packed up supplies and fled to the Grotto. The oldest was a 75-year-old grandmother, and the youngest a toddler. In silence, they descended into the sinkhole one by one. It was the last time many of them would see the sky for nearly a year … And 60 years after their ordeal, I am sitting in the afternoon light in the Stermers’ living room in Montreal, as Shulim, 84, Shlomo, 74, Yetta, 78, and a niece tell me the story recounted here. Theirs was a constant battle. Many people would have simply given up. Only love of family, strict discipline and gritty determination kept them going. “When we get together now,” Shulim says, “I know the fight to survive was worth it. I am most sure when I see my grandchildren.”

 

The Holy Family – Joseph, Mary and the infant child Jesus – have experienced the vicissitudes of human existence just like any of us. The Gospel reading (Mt 2:13-15, 19-23) tells of the Holy Family’s flight to Egypt and their return to the land of Israel after the death of Herod. In their flight to Egypt, the Holy Family, led by Joseph the protector, relives the history of Israel’s taking refuge in a less hostile place. In the Book of Genesis, we read the story of how Jacob leaves Canaan and, with his entire tribe, goes to live in Egypt where his beloved son, Joseph, is the governor. God appears to Jacob in a dream, assuring him: “Do not be afraid of going down to Egypt, for I will make you a great nation there. I myself will go down to Egypt with you. I myself will bring you back again” (Gen 46:3-4). Indeed, the flight of the Holy Family to take refuge in Egypt is similar to that of Jacob and his family as “refugees”. In the time of Jesus, Egypt is a common place of refuge for Jews. Only after the death of Herod in 4 B.C. is it safe for the Holy Family to return to Palestine.

 

The evangelist Matthew’s narration of the Holy Family’s flight to Egypt ends with an Old Testament quotation: “Out of Egypt I called my son” (Hos 11:1). According to the biblical scholar, Daniel Harrington: “The quotation from Hos 11:1 places this part of the Messiah’s itinerary within the framework of God’s will. It not only identifies Jesus as the Son of God, but it also suggests that he is the personification of the people of God. Just as God called Israel of old out of Egypt in order to create a special people for himself, so he calls Jesus out of Egypt into the land of Israel in order to create a new people. The principle of continuity between the old people and the new people is Jesus the Jew.” Jesus is thus the new Moses and the new Israel, coming out of Egypt. Born of Mary and with Joseph as guardian, the child Jesus was to deliver humankind from the exile of sin and death – by becoming sin on our behalf and dying so that we might live. The saving hand of God is at work in the rescue of the Holy Family from continual exile in a foreign land and in the liberating mission of the Messiah. In this beautiful season of Christmas, the child Jesus is being presented as the Messiah-liberator of the new People of God.

 

Matthew continues to narrate that when Herod had died, the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, commanding him to take the child and his mother to the land of Israel. He did as he was told, but, afraid to settle in Judea on account of the cruel Archelaus, he departed for the region of Galilee. Joseph, together with his holy charges, Mary and the child Jesus, went and dwelt in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled: “He shall be called a Nazorean” (Mt 2:23; cf. Is 11:1; Judg 13-16). Against the Is 11:1 backdrop, which speaks of the branch (nezer) sprouting from the root of Jesse, the child Jesus is being presented as the Messiah springing forth from the royal Davidic line. And with Judg 13-16 as the biblical horizon, Jesus is being presented as a new Samson, a consecrated person or nazir and a heroic savior figure.

 

Indeed, in their lives as exiles and persecuted ones, the Holy Family has experienced most intimately the difficulties, anxieties and vicissitudes of the other human families on earth. In all these, they placed themselves in a spirit of faith into the hands of Divine Providence and irrevocably commit themselves to God’s saving plan.

 

 

B. First Reading (Sir 3:2-6, 12-14): “Those who fear the Lord honor their parents.”

 

The Old Testament reading (Sir 3:2-6, 12-14) underlines that the blessings of family life can thrive and flourish where there is co-responsibility, honor, respect and compassionate love between parents and children. Fidelity to Yahweh involves caring for one another and the spirit of sacrifice. The book of Sirach, a charming work of an inspired and contemplative sage, shares timeless wisdom in the form of aphorisms – sayings, maxims and kernels of truth. This Sunday’s passage, with its keen observations about family relationships and the mutual duties of children and parents, is most appropriate for our celebration of the Feast of the Holy Family. It helps us to delve into the meaning and the challenges of family life. Against the backdrop of the Book of Sirach, we perceive a beautiful image of what a Christian family is called to be.

 

The biblical scholar Eugene Maly comments: “The Christian family’s life must be characterized by a love-giving peace, a love that each member can offer only because each member understands his or her proper relationship among the members. Parents exercise authority because they accept their authority from above. Children acknowledge the role of parents in their lives. Husbands and wives accept positions of co-responsibility and still acknowledge one another’s gifts and personhood. Children live together in an atmosphere that is conducive to growth and not to strife. Sirach points out the diverse roles of family members. . He comments on Exodus 20:12, which treats of the fourth commandment: Love your father and your mother. Such treatment of one’s parents will bring countless blessings upon the children, and no one is ever excused from showing honor to his or her parents.”

 

The following story illustrates the ideal of co-responsibility, mutual devotion and self-sacrificing love at work in the Roloff family and how this proved to be the best Christmas gift of all (cf. “Love Comes In All Sizes” by Amy Roloff in GUIDEPOSTS, December 2007, p. 66-69). Amy and Matt, who are dwarfs, are the parents of four children: the 17-year old twins, Jeremy and Zachary, 14-year old Molly and Jacob, ten years old. Only Zachary is a dwarf, like Amy and Matt. The highlight of their Christmas celebration is gathering in the family room and reading together the story of Jesus’ birth, about this great gift God gave us, how God loved the world so much he gave us his only begotten Son. Recognizing that the real heart of Christmas is sacrificial love, the parents tried to impart this holiday lesson to their children, in ways both big and small. Last December, Zach had to undergo surgery in one of his legs to correct a problem caused by achondroplasia, a form of dwarfism. The whole family traveled from Oregon to Oakland, California where the surgery would take place, including Zach’s twin, Jeremy. Amy narrates:

 

Jeremy did what he could to help his twin, but I could tell he was getting a little antsy. Once we knew that Zach was out of the woods, Jeremy planned to fly up to Portland with Matt – and Zach – in time for snowboarding. His cell phone rang like crazy the whole time. “There’s new snow? Don’t worry. I’ll be back in Oregon soon. I am so there!” But then Matt announced a change of plans. “I’m going to stay in Oakland a little longer so I can drive Zach home.” It had become clear that there was no way Zach would be comfortable on a plane so soon after surgery. But I also knew there was no way Matt would want to do that trip without help from Jeremy. For one thing, he’s the only one of us who’s tall enough to load up the luggage rack. And he would be a big help with the driving. There was silence in the room. It’s not Matt’s style to tell his kids to do things – especially a teen.

 

I looked at Jeremy and could tell he was crestfallen. He was struggling, thinking of his buddies back at Mount Hood and his girlfriend, all those things that even a teen senses might only come by once in your life. For a moment I thought he was going to tell Matt that he had to have his freedom. Matt would manage. He’s used to managing. “That’s okay,” Jeremy finally said. “I’ll stay here in Oakland. I want to help you guys. It’s important to be here for Zach – and for you.” And that was it.

 

Matt and Jeremy drove Zach back, and Jeremy sacrificed his break without complaint. I received plenty of presents that Christmas, but the greatest gift was having my kids home, and especially seeing how my 17-year-old son had grown up. He’d discovered one of the best things about families: When you sacrifice something you love to help someone you love, you grow by leaps and bounds. That love is the glue that holds families together. It’s held ours together through good times and bad. This Christmas we’ll all be at the farm again. There’ll be the usual quiet celebration, the trimming of the tree (Jeremy reaching the top), the honey-baked ham and apple pie, and, we hope, at least a guest or two. But this mother will be quietly treasuring the gift of last year. As Jeremy put it, “Mom, when it comes to the people you love, sometimes you have to put off the other stuff.” In doing that, you discover the stuff that really matters.

 

    

C. Second Reading (Col 3:12-21): “Family life in the Lord.”

 

The Second Reading (Col 3:12-21) is a prescription for ideal relationship among Church members as well as an injunction to an orderly, harmonious family life. Taken from the section of Colossians which urges the members of the body of Christ, the Church, to live according to the values of the community, it encourages works of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and love in Christ’s name. In the faith community and in its individual members, the peace of Christ must reign. Moreover, they should be filled with praise and thanksgiving. In a Christian family, mutual affection, respect, responsibility and care must thus prevail.

 

Mary Ehle comments: “Showing affection and paying attention to the feelings and desires of its members is the responsibility of each in the family, who live their lives in Christ – wives, husbands and children. For Catholics, the household or family is the basic unit of the Church. Because of this, it is called the domestic Church. In this Church, the love between parents and among parents and children identifies the family as a household of faith that gives thanks to God.”

 

The liturgy of Christmas invites us to be thankful. In today’s passage from the Colossians, we see how this could be done: letting Christ’s word dwell in us, teaching with all wisdom according to apostolic understanding, admonishing one another, worshipping and singing to God with grateful hearts, doing everything in word and deed in the name of Christ Jesus. The biblical scholar Ivan Havener remarks: “Seen in this light, thanksgiving to God the Father through Christ becomes a whole way of life. Christian life is eucharist, that is, thanksgiving.”

 

The following is a Christmas family story to warm the heart (cf. Doris Bennett, “God’s Littlest Caroler” in Country, December/January 2010, p.24). It illustrates the grace-filled quality of a Christian home and how a “family life in the Lord” is filled with thanksgiving and joyful song.

 

Farms, ranches and orchards made the foothills of San Francisco’s South Bay a wonderful place to live, especially at Christmas. My three boys didn’t have snow or sleds, but they had hills to climb, fields for kite-flying and fresh country air.

 

In 1962, Christmas was special, as we’d just had a baby girl, Suzanne. Our youngest boy, Ricky, 5, spent hours just watching her. “Mom”, he’d say, “If she gets any more beauty-fuller, I’ll just die!” Every night, Ricky thanked God for sending Sue, saying she was “the best Christmas present in the whole wide world”. His heart overflowed with joy.

 

On Christmas Eve, we snuggled around the fireplace. I read The Night Before Christmas and we watched a holiday movie. I was answering Ricky’s question about caroling, explaining that people used to do this to spread the joy of Christmas, when his brothers started yelling: “It’s snowing! Everybody look! It’s snowing!” Our entire neighborhood was blanketed in white. The hills glowed in the moonlight. It was unbelievable. Snow, in sunny California! My boys jumped all over the yard, the excitement and wonder almost more than they could handle.

 

Suddenly, Ricky slammed through the front door, “Mommy, I just had a great idea!” he said. “I want to sing Christmas carols to God and our neighbors! Can I, Mommy? I have to sing carols to thank God for this great Christmas. He’ll hear me better outside, and I’ll stay just on our street!”

 

“But it’s dark and cold and I don’t want you wandering around alone”, I said. Billy, 11, and Louie, 8, had just come back inside. “Your brothers will go out and sing with you.”

 

“No way!” they yelled. “What if our friends see us?”

 

“No one will see you, because I want you to stay in our front yard”, I said. “God will hear you well enough from there. So hush up and bundle up.”

 

Ricky beamed with pride. Billy and Louie mumbled as they stomped out the door behind him, kicking imaginary rocks.

 

The three of them stood in the snow and the moonlight. Bundled up in coats, hats and gloves, they looked like figures in a Norman Rockwell painting – except that the two taller boys looked like they were facing a firing squad.

 

I was sure it’d be over after one lisping melody. Suddenly Ricky stepped forward, threw his little arms wide, tossed his head back, looked skyward and let ‘er rip. “Thy-a-lent night! Ho-oh-lee night!”

 

Sue jolted awake, screaming. Neighborhood dogs began yelping. Birds screeched and flew away. But never in my life have I heard a man or beast make purer sounds of love and joy. This little man made sure God heard every word he sang.

 

As Ricky belted out one Christmas carol after another, porch lights popped on up and down the block. One neighbor must have suspected mayhem, because a police car cruised slowly past our house. I expected Billy and Louie to trample each other fleeing the scene of the crime, but they didn’t. As a small crowd of smiling neighbors formed in front of our house, my heart swelled with pride. Billy and Louie were singing with their brother.

 

They faced the house, stocking caps down over their faces, coat collars pulled up high, hands cupped over their ears. They had no idea what was going on behind them – or that they were part of a wonderful Christmas none of us would ever forget.

 

 

II. POINTS FOR THE EXAMINATION OF THE HEART: A Pastoral Tool for the MEDITATIO

 

How is the sacrificial element woven into the warp and woof of the Holy Family? Do you endeavor to imitate the examples of the Holy Family and strive to build a community of love, life and grace? How do you experience and show filial devotion?  What do you do to promote family life and how do we imbue family life with Christian values? Why is it important to celebrate meaningfully the Christian feast of the Holy Family? 

  

 

III. PRAYING WITH THE WORD: A Pastoral Tool for the ORATIO 

 

Merciful God,

it was your love and Christmas gift

that Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin Mary,

should humble himself and thereby raise a fallen world,

so that all your children might share in your life.

Grant to all who are bound by family ties

the grace to cling to you,

the strength to obey you,

the willingness to serve you,

and the thankfulness to praise you.

May we welcome the ineffable mystery

 of the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ your Son,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God forever and ever.

Amen.  

 

 

IV. INTERIORIZATION OF THE WORD: A Pastoral Tool for the CONTEMPLATIO

           

            The following is the bread of the living Word that will nourish us throughout the week. Please memorize it.

 

“Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt.” (Mt 2:14)

 

 

V. TOWARDS LIFE TRANSFORMATION: A Pastoral Tool for the ACTIO

 

Make an effort to contribute to the growth and nourishment of family life by your word and example. When needed, be ready to sacrifice something you love to be able to help someone you love.

 

 

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December 30, 2019: MONDAY – SIXTH DAY WITHIN THE OCTAVE OF THE NATIVITY OF THE LORD

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Redemption of Israel”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

1 Jn 2:12-17 // Lk 2:36-40

 

 

I. BIBLICO-LITURGICAL REFLECTIONS: A Pastoral Tool for the LECTIO

 

In today’s First Reading (1 Jn 2:12-17), the author, John, speaks to three age groups representing three different stages of Christian life. The “children” represent those who have been initiated into faith through baptism. Through personal experience of the Father, they are freed from sin for the sake of Christ. The “young men” are the spiritually proficient. Their strength is derived from the word of God and they are able to conquer the evil one. The “fathers” are the spiritually mature and their knowledge of the Father is secure and unmovable. They do not love the world and the things of the world. Since they do the will of God, they live forever. The qualities and destiny of the “spiritually mature” are exemplified by the Gospel personages, Simeon and Anna.

 

Today’s Gospel episode (Lk 2:36-40) is within the context of the presentation of the Lord Jesus in the temple and his saving “encounter” with the prophet Simeon and the prophetess Anna. The two prophets speak in glowing terms of Jesus as the salvation of every people and as the redemption of Jerusalem, which represents all the elect. Today’s focus is on the prophetess Anna, a holy widow advanced in years. She spent most of her life in the temple worshipping night and day with fasting and prayer. At the presentation of Jesus, she recognizes the infant as the gift of God. Anna gives thanks to God and testifies about the child to all who wait for the redemption of Jerusalem.

 

Our Christmas celebration invites us to be like Simeon and Anna in their humble stance of waiting for the Lord and of readily perceiving his presence with the light of faith. The following account illustrates how a person is able to experience the joy of faith and the Christmas spirit (cf. Brigitte Weeks in Daily Guideposts 2010, p. 381).

 

On a gloomy day in early December, safe in the car’s passenger seat, I pressed the satellite radio’s Search button. Christmas music seemed to be on every one of the four hundred channels – not celebrating the birth of Jesus, but mixing merchandise and carols together into electronic jungles. The meaning of the season seemed to slip away, drowned out by the relentless message that Christmas is about gifts and food. Loneliness seemed to be speaking out of all the good cheer.

 

I pushed another button, and suddenly the car was filled with glorious sounds of the last part of Ludwig van Beethoven’s magnificent Ninth Symphony, known as the “Ode to Joy”, which is also the music for Henry Van Dyke’s great hymn “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee”:

 

Ever singing march we onward

Victors in the midst of strife,

Joyful music leads us Sunward

In the triumph song of life.

 

Beethoven was only thirty-two and at the height of his career when he realized he was going deaf. He faced depression and loneliness. Yet some of his greatest music, including this passionate expression of joy and praise, was composed after he could no longer hear it performed.

 

As the music surrounded me, the irritations of the ceaseless electronic carols seemed very small. Beethoven believed in himself and in his God, and shared his gifts with countless millions of us who need to be reminded of the joy of faith.

 

 

 

II. POINTS FOR THE EXAMINATION OF THE HEART: A Pastoral Tool for the MEDITATIO

 

Do we imitate Simeon and Anna in our yearning for the Lord and in preparing ourselves for our encounter with the gift of salvation? Are we able to perceive the presence of the Lord in our lives, and are we thankful for the Christmas gift from heaven?

  

 

III. PRAYING WITH THE WORD: A Pastoral Tool for the ORATIO 

 

Lord Jesus,

you are the heavenly gift awaited by Anna and Simeon,

and by all those longing for the redemption of Jerusalem and the nations.

Grant us the grace to perceive your presence

and to be ever thankful for you,

who are God’s Christmas present to us.

Help us to give witness to you as our saving Lord.

You live and reign, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

 

IV. INTERIORIZATION OF THE WORD: A Pastoral Tool for the CONTEMPLATIO

           

            The following is the bread of the living Word that will nourish us throughout the week. Please memorize it.

 

“Anna gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all those who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.” (Lk 2:38)

 

 

V. TOWARDS LIFE TRANSFORMATION: A Pastoral Tool for the ACTIO

 

Be perceptive and thankful for the various presences of the Lord in your daily life. Like Anna and Simeon give witness to the good news about the Lord Jesus, especially to those who have difficulty experiencing his saving presence.

 

 

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December 31, 2019: TUESDAY – SEVENTH DAY WITHIN THE OCTAVE OF THE NATIVITY OF THE LORD

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Word Made Flesh”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

1 Jn 2:18-21 // Jn 1:1-18

 

 

I. BIBLICO-LITURGICAL REFLECTIONS: A Pastoral Tool for the LECTIO

 

A. Gospel Reading (Jn 1:1-18): “The Word became flesh.”

 

On the seventh day in the Octave of Christmas and on New Year’s Eve, we hear the deeply evocative Prologue of Saint John (Jn 1:1-18), which perceives the incarnation of the Word as God’s utmost revelation of love and glory. Christmas is a celebration of God speaking to us his most beautiful word – Jesus Christ! The Word made flesh is God’s “I love you” to us. The Word that the saving God spoke in the birth of Jesus manifests his deep compassion for us.

 

Saint Bernard asserts: “God’s Son came in the flesh so that mortal men could see and recognize God’s kindness … The incarnation teaches us how much God cares for us and what he thinks and feels about us. We should stop thinking of our own sufferings and remember what he has suffered. Let us think of all the Lord has done for us, and then we shall realize his goodness appeared through his humanity. The lesser he became through his human nature the greater was his goodness; the more he lowered himself for me, the dearer he is to me.”

 

The compassionate God continues to speak to us in the here and now through Scripture as the following testimony would show (cf. Brian Keilty, “It’s Not All About You” in The WORD Among Us (April 24 - May 31, 2011, p. 67-68).

 

We had just visited my wife’s oncologist, and the dreaded news he delivered initially left us quiet, reflective, and heart-broken. The doctor felt that Marybeth’s long and painful fight with cancer was, for all intents and purposes, over. The disease had progressed to the point where aggressive treatment was no longer advisable; the only remaining option was palliative care delivered through hospice. We had been married for nineteen years.

 

The bad news was not unique to us. Countless times that day, many thousands of other people throughout the world heard a similar message. But this diagnosis was ours. What made the trip home so extraordinary was that we talked not about the prognosis, not about our fears and anxieties, not about a future denied our young children, but about God and his speaking to us through Scripture.

 

Marybeth began the conversation (I remember the exact spot on the highway) by telling me of the joy, peace, and comfort she had received from God while reading Psalm 62 that very morning. She knew God was addressing her through its opening verses: “My soul rests in God alone from whom comes my salvation. God alone is my rock and salvation, my secure height; I shall never fall.”

 

Those words of comfort gave Marybeth peace and direction. It was God, not good health, who was to be the center of her life. His salvation was more important to her than her healing. During her final two months, those words also empowered her every day to guide and care for her children, as well as love and support her husband.

 

 

B. First Reading (1 Jn 2:18-21): “You have the anointing that comes from the Holy One and you have all knowledge.”

 

It is the last day of the civil year. As we bid the old year goodbye, the Church, through the proclamation of the Prologue of Saint John, gives us a glimpse of God’s deep involvement in humanity’s historical “time”. The Prologue, which is a synthesis of salvation history, traces the saving mission of the Word-made-flesh from the Father and the return of the incarnate Word back to the Father. The evangelist John also underlines the reason why the divine Word is sent to us: that those who believe in the Son may receive power to become children of God.

 

As we close the year, we also hear in today’s First Reading (I Jn 2:18-21) the exhortation about the “last hour”: we must hold fast to the grace of truth and be faithful to God. The Messiah has come and will come again. The intervening period is the “last hour” in which true Christians can recognize truth for what it is, and falsehood for what it is, through “the anointing that comes from the Holy One”. Indeed, the Holy Spirit has been poured out upon us by Christ and we come to know the truth of God’s tremendous love for us. In spite of the deception of antichrists who have abandoned the Christian community, true believers are able to abide in the Father and the Son by the spiritual “anointing” they have received. True Christians are thus empowered by the Spirit to know and live the life of Jesus Christ, the font of saving love, and in conformity with the Father’s compassionate will.

 

The following story is a testimony of one who was tempted to succumb to evil but, guided by the Holy Spirit, made a fundamental choice for the power of good (cf. Kathy Collard Miller, “Desperate Hope” in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Stories of Faith, ed. Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, Cos Cob: CSS, 2008, p. 51-54).

 

As the train rumbled past the East Coast countryside, taking my daughter and me to New York City for a mother/daughter vacation, my thoughts were as piercing as the screeching wheels of the train. Why did he do it? Why did Greg take his own life? He was a distant relative whom I rarely saw, yet the news that Greg had committed suicide made tears spring into my eyes and a deep sadness fill my heart. Relatives asked, “How could anyone be that hopeless and helpless?

 

But I knew. As I glanced over at my twenty-eight-year-old daughter napping next to me on the double seat, I realized with a force I hadn’t felt for a long time that if I’d taken my life, I would not have the fabulous mother-daughter relationship I now enjoyed with my daughter. (…)

 

One desperate day my rage was out of control. I ran into the bedroom and slammed the door behind me … Then suddenly I remembered where Larry stored his off-duty service revolver. The gun! That’s the answer! The gun! A tiny, sinister voice in my head whispered. “Take your life. It’s hopeless. Nothing has changed for months even though I’ve prayed over and over again; it’s only gotten worse. God doesn’t care. Otherwise He would instantaneously deliver me from my anger and heal our marriage. Larry hates me. I hate him and my life.

 

With trembling hands, I opened the locked drawer and almost gasped when the gleam from the shiny barrel of the gun glinted at me so invitingly. Darcy is better off without a mother like me. I’m ruining her for life. Seconds clicked off and then I reached for the cold revolver. But then a new thought popped into my mind. What will people think of Jesus if they hear that Kathy Miller took her life?

 

My hand stopped. The faces of the women in the neighborhood Bible study I led flitted before me. My family members who didn’t know Christ came to mind. I thought of the neighbors I witnessed to. Oh, Lord, I don’t care about my reputation, but I do care about yours!

 

I slammed the drawer shut and fell to my knees. The concern about Jesus’ reputation saved my life that day, and I knew it was prompted by the Holy Spirit.

 

I didn’t have any hope at that point, but in the following months God proved Himself faithful by revealing the underlying causes of my anger, giving me a patience to be a loving mom and then healing my relationship with Larry. (…)

 

Yes, I understood how Greg could have felt so little hope – in fact, no hope at all. How I wish I could have shared with him that there is always hope, and God is faithful if we will hold on to His promises.

 

 

II. POINTS FOR THE EXAMINATION OF THE HEART: A Pastoral Tool for the MEDITATIO

 

1. Are we awed by the tremendous saving event of the incarnation of the Word? How do we respond to this awesome saving mystery?

2. Do we realize that we have received “the anointing that comes from the Holy One” and the revelation of God’s saving love and that these prompt us to abide in him and to walk in the light of truth?

 

 

III. PRAYING WITH THE WORD: A Pastoral Tool for the ORATIO

 

Lord Jesus,

you are the most beautiful Word spoken by God the Father.

In your birth,

we hear the voice of the compassionate God speaking to our heart,

“I love you … I will save you!”

In you is the fullness of grace and truth.

In this forthcoming New Year,

help us to become courageous heralds of your saving Gospel

and to share with all your healing word of love and forgiveness.

With all peoples and creation and all the choirs of angels

we acclaim:

Glory to God in the highest,

and on earth peace to people of good will!

 

***

(Cf. Opening Prayer, Seventh Day of Christmas Octave)

Ever-living God,

in the birth of your Son

our religion has its origin and its perfect fulfillment.

Help us to share in the life of Christ

for he is the salvation of mankind,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, forever and ever.

            Amen.

 

 

IV. INTERIORIZATION OF THE WORD: A Pastoral Tool for the CONTEMPLATIO

 

The following is the bread of the living Word that will nourish us throughout the day. Please memorize it.

 

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” (Jn 1:14) //“But you have the anointing that comes from the Holy One, and you all have knowledge.” (I Jn 2:20)

 

 

V. TOWARDS LIFE TRANSFORMATION: A Pastoral Tool for the ACTIO

 

Pray that people may truly perceive the meaning and implication of the Word made flesh. Resolve to spend more time to read the Scripture and break the bread of the Word. By your words and deeds, enable the people around you to experience that the divine Word is truly incarnate. // Pray for those who are contemplating suicide and the victims of murder-suicide crimes. Do what you can to help them.

 

 

*** *** ***

January 1, 2020: WEDNESDAY – SOLEMNITY OF MARY, THE HOLY MOTHER OF GOD

 “JESUS SAVIOR: He Is Born of the Virgin Mary”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

Nm 6:22-27 // Gal 4:4-7 // Lk 2:16-21

 

 

I. BIBLICO-LITURGICAL REFLECTIONS: A Pastoral Tool for the LECTIO

 

On the Octave of Christmas, we celebrate the oldest Marian feast in the Church, the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. In this Marian feast we celebrate her intimate role in the Christmas mystery as the willing virgin who gave birth to the Son of God. Cardinal Leon Joseph Suenens remarks: “We find Mary at the very heart of the mystery of the incarnation. She is the mother of the one who will be for all future ages the way, the truth, and the life. The threshold of the one who, above all, can introduce us to Jesus … To our contemporary world Mary offers the living and vibrant reality, the incarnate Savior of the world.”

 

The solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, falls on New Year’s Day (January 1), the first day of the civil year – an occasion when people look back on the past and wish each other God’s abundant blessings. It is most opportune that the Old Testament reading for the New Year’s Mass is the Priestly Blessing from the book of Numbers (6:22-27). Prayed in the context of the Christmas-Marian feast, it evokes the truth that Mary, Mother of God, is the utmost recipient of God’s blessing. In the motherhood of Mary, the icon of the blessed of God, the fullness of blessing is given to the world through her divine Child, the Savior of the world - the Priest of the New Covenant. 

 

Combined with the Gospel episode (Lk 2:16-21) of today’s Marian feast, the Priestly Blessing from the Book of Numbers serves to interpret the Christmas mystery. From the manger, in his Son Jesus, the Lord God blesses us abundantly and protects us. In the Christ Child, the icon of the divine love, the Lord God lets his face shine upon us and enables us to experience his favor and graciousness. In Mary’s Son, the Prince of Peace, the Lord looks kindly upon us and grants us peace and total salvation. Indeed, in Jesus Christ, the Word of God incarnate, is the fullness of the Father’s benediction to humankind. Moreover, in his Son Jesus, born of Mary, the fullness of blessing and praise – the Eucharist – is rendered to God, our Almighty Father.

 

In his past Message for the World Day of Peace (January 1, 2014), Pope Francis asserts that fraternity is the foundation and pathway to peace. In Jesus is true fraternity. The Pope remarks: “All who accept the life of Christ and live in him acknowledge God as Father and give themselves completely to him, loving him above all things. The reconciled person sees in God the Father of all, and, as a consequence, is spurred on to live a life of fraternity open to all … All are loved by God. All have been redeemed by the blood of Christ, who died on the Cross and rose for all. This is the reason why no one can remain indifferent before the lot of our brothers and sisters.” Pope Francis concludes his Message with the following intercession: “May Mary, the Mother of Jesus, help us to understand and live every day the fraternity that springs up from the heart of her Son, so as to bring peace to each person on this beloved earth.”

 

The following story gives us a glimpse into how fraternity in Christ can extinguish war (cf. Brad Steiger & Sherry Hansen Steiger, Christmas Miracles, Avon: Adams Media Corporation, 2001, p. 44-46).

 

Five months after the start of World War I, just after midnight on Christmas morning, the vast majority of German soldiers declared a Christmas truce in the hostilities between themselves and those of the Allied troops – the Russian, French, and British. Regimental bands began to play Christmas carols and the men raised their voices in joyous celebration of the Holy Night when the Prince of Peace was born.

 

The Allied soldiers were understandably suspicious about the shouts of “Merry Christmas” that they heard directed at them from the German trenches. Perhaps they had snipers lined up just waiting for a curious Tommy, Ivan, or Frenchy to peek his head above the trenches. But at the end of each hymn or cheerful carol they heard the German boys from Kaiser Bill’s army calling out something about a Christmas truce. The men in the Allied trenches checked with their officers, but none of them knew anything about a truce having been declared for the holidays.

 

At dawn’s first light on Christmas morn, the German troops rose up out of their trenches, set down their weapons, and began to walk across “no-man’s land”, singing carols and shouting out, “Merry Christmas” in French, Russian, and English, as well as their native German. From all appearances, from everything the Allied officers could see through their field glasses and from what the soldiers were able to witness from their frontline observation posts, all the Germans appeared to be without rifles or any kind of weaponry whatsoever.

 

Soon the Allied soldiers crawled out of their trenches and walked toward the Germans who were so openly and trustingly celebrating Christmas. The men shook hands, wished each other a blessed Christmas, and exchanged gifts of cigarettes and food. Later, they sang hymns and carols, and those of the same faith worshipped together. Some accounts of the Christmas truce even state that opposing sides played a good-natured, but rousing, game of soccer. The remarkable unofficial “time-out” that was declared by the combat soldiers without any thought of obtaining permission from their superiors lasted for two or three days.

 

Sadly, the Christmas truce of 1914 was probably one of the very last examples of old-fashioned chivalry in modern warfare. Within another few weeks, the first technological war would begin slaughtering human beings on a scale previously undreamt of in any military officer’s most fevered nightmare of destruction. The employment of poison gas against the men in the trenches, the serial bombing of cities and civilians beyond the frontlines, the onslaught of armored tanks crushing men and smashing walls, machine guns mowing down ranks of soldiers, aircraft swooping down from the skies and strafing troops on the ground – all of these horrors and more would make the notion of another Christmas truce during the war an impossible dream. But the 1914 Christmas miracle created by the common foot soldiers’ declaration of peace and goodwill toward their fellow comrades-in-arms will live forever in memory as a triumph of the indomitable human spirit over the fatal disease of war.

 

 

II. POINTS FOR THE EXAMINATION OF THE HEART: A Pastoral Tool for the MEDITATIO

 

Do we allow the Lord God to bless us and keep us … to let his face shine upon us and be gracious to us … to look kindly upon us and give us peace? Do we look upon Mary as model of receptivity to grace and God’s abundant blessings? Do we look forward to the gracious blessings God has reserved for us in this New Year? How can we promote fraternity as a foundation and pathway to peace? Do we call upon Mary, the Mother of the Prince of Peace, to help us in our peace-making?

 

 

III. PRAYING WITH THE WORD: A Pastoral Tool for the ORATIO

 

Lord Jesus,

in you is the fraternity

that is the foundation and pathway to peace.

In this grace-filled New Year,

help us to become courageous heralds of your saving Gospel

and to be channels of your peace.

May your Mother Mary help us to promote the fraternity

that springs up from your heart

so as to bring peace to each person on this beloved earth.

With all peoples and creation and all the choirs of angels

we acclaim: Glory to God in the highest,

and on earth peace to people of good will!

We give you thanks and praise,

now and forever.

Amen.

 

 

IV. INTERIORIZATION OF THE WORD: A Pastoral Tool for the CONTEMPLATIO

 

The following is the bread of the living Word that will nourish us throughout the day. Please memorize it.

 

            “The Lord bless you and keep you!

The Lord let his face shine upon you and be gracious to you!

The Lord look kindly upon you and give you peace!” (Nm 6:24-26) 

 

 

V. TOWARDS LIFE TRANSFORMATION: A Pastoral Tool for the ACTIO

 

 At the family reunion on New Year’s Day, use the Priestly Blessing as part of the prayer before or after meals, or at any other appropriate occasion during the day. With the help of Mary, Mother of God, perform acts of charity and service throughout the year that will bring God’s healing and benediction to the poor, the marginalized and the victims of natural and man-made calamities.

 

*** *** ***

 

January 2, 2020: THURSDAY – SAINTS BASIL THE GREAT AND GREGORY NAZIANZEN, Bishops, Doctors of the Church

  “JESUS SAVIOR: He Leads Us by the Holy Spirit”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

1 Jn 2:22-28 // Jn 1:19-28

 

 

I. BIBLICO-LITURGICAL REFLECTIONS: A Pastoral Tool for the LECTIO

 

A. Gospel Reading (Jn 1:19-28): “There is one who is coming after me.”

 

In this Christmas season we continue to penetrate the meaning of Jesus Savior, the Father’s gift of love to us. In today’s Gospel (Jn 1:19-28), the precursor John the Baptist, proclaims the coming of the Messiah, whose sandals he feels unworthy to untie. Jesus is the light and John is the lamp that reflects it; the Son of God is the saving word and the prophet in the wilderness is the voice that proclaims it. Indeed, Christ must increase and the one who prepares his way must decrease. Jesus is “the Greater One”. Like John the Baptist, we must recognize the preeminent status of Jesus Christ and assume our subordinate position in relation to him. Jesus Christ is the holy and immortal one to whom our love, reverence and unconditional trust are due. The spirit of Christmas invites us to render our homage, adoration and service to the Son of God.

 

When I was assigned in India, I looked forward to the visit of a little old lady from a fishing tribe in Bombay. The Sisters fondly called her “Granny”. Like the other women of her tribe, Granny wore her “sari” in a peculiar way – one end tucked between her legs. She would be served breakfast by the kind Sisters, usually the regular fare of cooked beans and a small loaf of bread. I was fascinated by the way Granny responded to the gift of bread. She would receive and hold it with reverence. Then she would make a sign of the cross over it and lift up her gaze to pray a silent blessing. If that is how Granny responded to the gift of material bread, one could just imagine her awesome reverence before the Blessed Sacrament on the altar. Her devout expression and gestures manifested that she was truly before the sacramental presence of Jesus Christ, whose sandal strap we are not worthy to untie.

 

 

B. First Reading (1 Jn 2:22-28): “Let what you heard from the beginning remain in you.”

 

The great Christmas mystery of God the Father sending his Son to be our Savior is not always accepted. In Saint John’s community, there are those who reject Jesus as the Messiah. These “antichrists” reject both the Father and the Son, for whoever rejects the Son rejects also the Father. In today’s First Reading (I Jn 2:22-28), Saint John therefore exhorts us to be faithful to the message transmitted by the apostles from the beginning. This will lead us to live in union with the Father and the Son and, consequently, to experience eternal life. Faithfulness to truth is made possible by the Holy Spirit that Christ pours out upon us.

 

John the Baptist, filled and guided by the Holy Spirit, proclaims the truth that Jesus is the Messiah. The Church, in time and space, struggles with “antichrists” and continues to uphold the truth that Jesus is the Savior. By the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, the truth prevails.

 

The fight against Arianism, a heresy that denies that Jesus is the Son of God, illustrates the Church’s endeavor to defend the truth and to live in the truth (cf. Giovanni Falbo, St. Monica: The Power of a Mother’s Love, Boston: Pauline Books and Media, 2007, p. 65).

 

These were days of great uncertainty, but also of an intense Christian experience; the faithful of Milan discovered what it meant to be a community and what their bishop meant to them. As a widow in Africa, Monica had already formed the habit of going to church each day, and she felt that she was part of the Christian community, considering it a family. With a figure such as Ambrose, she felt more intensely the joy of shared prayer and fellowship, and she even provided food for those who remained in the basilica for days at a time. To find herself in the company of Ambrose, to have the opportunity to speak with him, to profit from his profound teachings, and, together with other Christians, to fight against the excesses of imperial power, was for her a magnificent experience of the living Church.

 

The imperial forces made a number of efforts to dislodge the resisters, but Ambrose always responded with courage, ready to die rather than give in to intimidation. After a while, the soldiers themselves began to enter the basilica to join those who were praying and singing there. In the end, the [Arian] empress was forced to back down, and on Holy Thursday, April 2, 386, she ordered the troops to withdraw. Ambrose and the Church of Milan had won and Monica had also played her part. Their exultation was tremendous.

 

 

II. POINTS FOR THE EXAMINATION OF THE HEART: A Pastoral Tool for the MEDITATIO

 

1. Do I truly recognize the absolute grandeur and absolute excellence of Jesus Christ, whose sandals we are not worthy to untie? How do I respond to his presence?

 

2. Are we willing to keep in our heart the saving message about Christ, the Son of God? Do we treasure the Christmas mystery and abide by the truth?

 

 

III. PRAYING WITH THE WORD: A Pastoral Tool for the ORATIO

 

Loving Father,

we thank you for John the Baptist

who witnessed that the Messiah is “the Greater One”,

whose sandal strap he was not worthy to untie.

Jesus is the refulgence of the Father’s glory

and to him we offer reverently

the homage of our love and service.

Help us imitate John the Baptist

in his serving stance to Christ our Savior,

who lives and reigns forever and ever.

Amen.

 

***

(Cf. Opening Prayer of the Mass, Friday, from January 2 to Epiphany)

Lord,

fill our hearts with your light.

May we always acknowledge Christ as our Savior

and be more faithful to his Gospel,

for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, forever and ever.

Amen.   

 

 

IV. INTERIORIZATION OF THE WORD: A Pastoral Tool for the CONTEMPLATIO

 

The following is the bread of the living Word that will nourish us throughout the day. Please memorize it.

 

“There is one among you … whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.” (Jn 1:27) //“Let what you heard from the beginning remain in you.” (I Jn 1:24)

 

  

V. TOWARDS LIFE TRANSFORMATION: A Pastoral Tool for the ACTIO

 

Pray that we may always take a reverential attitude of service in relation to Christ. By your spirit of humility and service to the people around you, enable them to experience that Christ is “Greater One” who deserves the gift of our entire being. // Secure a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and/or Youth Catechism, and continue to delve into the beauty and riches of the Catholic faith.

 

 

*** *** ***

 

January 3, 2020: FRIDAY – CHRISTMAS WEEKDAY; THE MOST HOLY NAME OF JESUS

“JESUS SAVIOR: He Is the Lamb of God”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

1 Jn 2:29-3:6 // Jn 1:29-34

 

 

I. BIBLICO-LITURGICAL REFLECTIONS: A Pastoral Tool for the LECTIO

 

A. Gospel Reading (Jn 1:29-34): “Behold the Lamb of God.”

 

When John the Baptist saw Jesus coming to him, he exclaimed: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” The “Great One”, whose sandals John felt unworthy to untie, comes to the world on a compassionate mission of salvation. He is the “Lamb” who liberates from the power of evil and death. On the night of the Exodus, the Israelites smeared the doorposts of their homes with a lamb’s blood to avert the death of the first born. The angel of destruction “passed over” their homes and the angel’s “passing over” was an experience of salvation. By the blood of the sacrificial lamb the Chosen People were saved.

 

On Christmas night, the shepherds taking care of the flocks heard from the angel of the Lord the good news of salvation: “Christ the Savior is born”. Mary’s “first born” son would be identified many years later by John the Baptist as the “Lamb of God” who takes away the sin of the world. By the blood poured out by Jesus, the Lamb of God, the whole world is saved and the wounds caused by evil and sin are healed.

 

The saving work of Jesus continues in the here and now as the beautiful story of self-giving reported here will show (cf. “7 Keys to Generous Giving” in AARP Bulletin, Novembe3 2018, p. 38)

 

Actress Marlo Thomas, 80, grew up with charity at the center of her life. Her father, entertainer Danny Thomas, founded St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., to provide a state-of-the-art care for children with life-threatening diseases at no cost to their families. After her father’s death in 1991, Thomas became a national outreach director for St. Jude and helped turn it into one of the world’s leading pediatric cancer research centers. Over the years, she’s developed a unique perspective on the psychology of giving and what it takes to cultivate a generous heart. (…)

 

One of Thomas’ most moving stories is about Ira Jackson, a retiree on Social Security who managed to donate a little to St. Jude every month. Then he got a terminal illness. In a letter to the hospital during his final days, he wrote, “I’m prepared to die, but I’m concerned that the little children won’t have a chance to grow into healthy adults. My last wish is for you to use this letter to find someone to take my place.” The hospital shared his letter and got 900 new donors who gave hundreds of thousands of dollars. “Ira knew that when he died, he would leave a hole behind”, Thomas says. “He donated about $80 total. It wasn’t billions, but it was a lot of money to him. He gave us as much as he could and was worried when he left that there wouldn’t be any more. I love that story.”

 

 

B. First Reading (1 Jn 2:29-3:6): “No one who remains in him sins.”

 

Today’s First Reading (1 Jn 2:29-3:6) helps us to contemplate that Jesus is the Father’s Christmas gift to us. The divine gift of love is his only begotten Son, the Savior of the world. Through this gift we become the children of God. What love the Father bestowed on us in making us his own children! Holiness marks our life of belonging to God as his children. Sin is “lawlessness” – a disordered existence of alienation. It is a negation of God’s love and totally incompatible with our Christian vocation to live a life of intimacy with God. Through the Gospel (Jn 1:29-34) we behold Jesus, however, as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Through him, it is possible to turn away from sin and enter a life of renewed communion with our loving God.

 

The Christmas season is a beautiful occasion to thank the Lord God for Jesus and the gift of salvation. It is a call to embrace our vocation as children of God and to renounce “lawlessness” and sin. The hope of conversion is most welcome on Christmas and every day of the year. The following story is inspiring (cf. Dani D’Angelo, “The Gift of Quitting” in Amazing Grace for the Catholic Heart, ed. Jeff Cavins, et. al., West Chester: Ascension Press, 2004, p. 167-169).

 

On Christmas morning, my little boy asked me what I was giving the Baby Jesus for His birthday. I was crushed as I had nothing. I had not baked our customary birthday cake for Baby Jesus, nor had we stored up our good deeds to fill the manger with straw, like in years past. I felt bad but the look on my son’s face told me he felt worse. The next thing out of my mouth surprised even me.

 

“I know”, I said impulsively. “I am giving Baby Jesus my smoking habit. The whole thing: the cigarettes, the lighters, the cravings, the crabbiness, the ashtrays both dirty and clean, everything about smoking - is what I am giving to Baby Jesus.”

 

He was delighted and ran to tell his sister. They were filled with such joy while I sat stunned at what I had just done. I was obsessed with cigarettes yet I had told my son that I was giving up smoking as a gift to the Baby Jesus. Was I nuts? Could I do it? “No way”, I thought. But I knew that to break such a promise to my son would haunt us both for years to come. I needed a miracle. “Look Jesus”, I prayed. “I am sorry for jumping the gun, but I made this promise to my child. Now I need You to help me keep it.”

 

Suddenly I was filled with a deep sense of sureness. The kids and I had a ball going from room to room collecting everything to do with cigarettes. There were packs hidden everywhere – five in the freezer alone. We took the cigarettes, lighters, and ashtrays and either gave or throw them away. Then I went from room to room taking down curtains and cleaning them. I washed walls, ceilings, clothing and everything I could find, from Christmas morning until well into the New Year. (…) That was the year of my Christmas miracle and it changed my life completely … I gave up smoking as a gift to Baby Jesus, but in turn it was a gift He gave to me.

 

 

 

II. POINTS FOR THE EXAMINATION OF THE HEART: A Pastoral Tool for the MEDITATIO

 

1. Do we welcome Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, into our life and embrace his saving power? What areas in our life need to be liberated by him?

 

2. How do we respond to God the Father’s awesome love in making us his children in Jesus Christ? Do we try to abide in God and to avoid sin and “lawlessness” that drive us away from experiencing eternal life?

 

 

III. PRAYING WITH THE WORD: A Pastoral Tool for the ORATIO

 

O gracious Father,

we thank you for the gift of your Son Jesus,

the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

He is the savior of the world

and frees us from self-destruction

and all the evil forces that threaten us.

Teach us to be gentle and gracious to the saving Lamb.

Help us to welcome him joyfully into our life

and give ourselves to him, now and forever.

Amen.

 

***

(Cf. Opening Prayer of the Mass, Saturday, from January 2 to Epiphany)

All-powerful and ever-living God,

you give us a new vision of your glory

in the coming of Christ your Son.

He was born of the Virgin Mary

and came to share our life.

May we come to share his eternal life

in the glory of your kingdom,

where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God forever and ever.

Amen.

 

 

IV. INTERIORIZATION OF THE WORD: A Pastoral Tool for the CONTEMPLATIO

 

The following is the bread of the living Word that will nourish us throughout the day. Please memorize it.

 

“Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” (Jn 1:29b) // “See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God.” (I Jn 3:1) 

 

 

V. TOWARDS LIFE TRANSFORMATION: A Pastoral Tool for the ACTIO

 

Pray that people may graciously welcome the daily coming of the Lamb of God in our life. By your acts of justice and charity to those struggling with various addictions, enable them to experience the saving power of the compassionate Lamb of God. // By your peaceful stance and works of charity, promote the integrity and holiness of the “children of God”.

 

*** *** ***

January 4, 2020: SATURDAY – SAINT ELIZABETH ANN SETON, Religious (USA)

“JESUS SAVIOR: They Followed Him, the Lamb of God”

 

 

BIBLE READINGS

1 Jn 3:7-10 // Jn 1:35-42

 

 

I. BIBLICO-LITURGICAL REFLECTIONS: A Pastoral Tool for the LECTIO

 

A. Gospel Reading (Jn 1:35-42): “We have found the Messiah.”

 

Saint John declared in the Gospel prologue: “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (Jn 1:14). The Incarnate Word Jesus Christ is the “Lamb of God” pointed out by the precursor, John the Baptist, to two of his disciples. Indeed, the title “Lamb of God” evokes images of the sacrificial lamb, the suffering Servant in whom Yahweh is well pleased, and the Good Shepherd.

 

Jesus Christ thus initiates the dialogue of discipleship: “What are you looking for?” The response of Andrew and his companion is not totally an answer, but a question pregnant with meaning: “Where are you staying?”  Their question means, “Where can we find you and learn from you about our true home?” Jesus says in reply, “Come and see.” He offers an invitation to walk with him and learn what remaining with him entails, as well as our final destiny. Indeed, the positive and ready response of the disciples to his invitation is extremely inspiring: “They went and saw where Jesus was staying, and they stayed with him.” As the Word made flesh dwelt among us and stayed with us through his eternal healing presence, so the first disciples remained with Jesus, the incarnate Word and divine Teacher.

 

Having experienced the life-giving intimacy and power of Jesus, the Word of life, the disciple Andrew became a sharer of the Word. His inevitable response is to find someone else to share the joy of his personal encounter with the Messiah. His effort to share the Word incarnate with his brother Simon Peter bore abundant fruit.

 

The following story gives insight into a disciple’s ministry of sharing the Word and of bringing the saving presence of Christ to others (cf. Chaplain Samuel Boone, “The Ministry of Presence” in Guideposts, December 2011, p. 58).

 

Christmas time can be lonesome for soldiers. I remember being stuck on an Army base in Germany one Christmas Eve with a case of the flu. My buddies went out partying while I could barely move from my bunk. The one person who dropped by was a chaplain. “Son”, he said, “you look like you could use some chicken soup.”

 

I didn’t put much stock in religion then, but the fact that this was a busy man – he had a Christmas Eve service to put on after all – made time to see me made an impression. He even brought by some of his wife’s chicken soup. That’s what military chaplains call the ministry of presence. You can’t expect the soldiers under your care to waltz into your office. You’ve got to reach them where they are: in the mess hall, at their posts, in the barracks.

 

That good man changed my life. I got well, dropped by the chapel, made a profession of faith and eventually became a chaplain myself.

 

 

B. First Reading (1 Jn 3:7-10): “Those who are begotten by God commit no sin.”

 

The Christmas mystery – his “appearing” in our time and space - continues to impact us. The Son of God “appeared” in order to destroy the devil’s deeds. He is the “Lamb of God” who takes away the sins of the world. In Jesus Christ, we become children of God. He is the Righteous One to imitate. The reading (1 Jn 3:7-10) underlines that the “righteous” children imitate the holiness of Jesus Savior. We must keep ourselves pure as Christ is pure and holy as he is holy. The “seed” of God remains in the one begotten by him. The “seed” is the living Word that brings his children into harmony with his saving will.

 

The following story entitled “The Seed” and circulated on the Internet gives insight into the “righteousness” that befits the children of God.

 

A successful Christian businessman was growing old and knew it was time to choose a successor to take over the business. Instead of choosing one of his directors or his children, he decided to do something different. He called all the young executives in his company together. “It is time for me to step down and choose the next CEO” he said. “I have decided to choose one of you.” The young executives were shocked, but the boss continued. “I am going to give each one of you a seed today – a very special seed. I want you to plant the seed, water it, and come back here one year from today with what you have grown from the seed I have given you. I will then judge the plants that you bring, and the one I choose will be the next CEO.”

 

One man named Jim was there that day and he, like the others, received a seed. He went home and excitedly told his wife the story. She helped him get a pot, soil and compost and he planted the seed. Every day, he would water it and watch to see if it had grown. After about three weeks, some of the other executives began to talk about their seeds and the plants that were beginning to grow. Jim kept checking his seed, but nothing ever grew. Three weeks, four weeks, five weeks went by, still nothing. By now, others were talking about their plants, but Jim didn’t have a plant and he felt like a failure.

 

Six months went by – still nothing in Jim’s pot. He just knew he had killed his seed. Everyone else had trees and tall plants, but he had nothing. Jim didn’t say anything to his colleagues however. He just kept watering and fertilizing the soil – he so wanted the seed to grow.

 

A year finally went by and all the young executives of the company brought their plants to the CEO for inspection. Jim told his wife that he wasn’t going to take an empty pot. But she asked him to be honest about what happened. Jim felt sick to his stomach. It was going to be the most embarrassing moment of his life, but he knew his wife was right. He took his empty pot to the board room. When Jim arrived, he was amazed at the variety of plants grown by the other executives. They were beautiful – in all shapes and sizes. Jim put his empty pot on the floor and many of his colleagues laughed. A few felt sorry for him.

 

When the CEO arrived, he surveyed the room and greeted his young executives. Jim just tried to hide in the back. “My, what great plants, trees, and flowers you have grown”, said the CEO. “Today one of you will be appointed the next CEO!” All of a sudden, the CEO spotted Jim at the back of the room with his empty pot. He ordered the financial director to bring him to the front. Jim was terrified. He thought, “The CEO knows I am a failure! Maybe he will have me fired!” When Jim got to the front, the CEO asked him what had happened to his seed. Jim told the story.

 

The CEO asked everyone to sit down except Jim. He looked at Jim, and then announced to the young executives, “Here is your next Chief Executive! His name is Jim!” Jim couldn’t believe it. Jim couldn’t even grow his seed. “How could he be the new CEO?” the others said. Then the CEO said, “One year ago today, I gave everyone in this room a seed. I told you to take the seed, plant it, water it, and bring it back to me today. But I gave you all boiled seeds; they were dead – it was not possible for them to grow. All of you, except Jim, have brought me trees and plants and flowers. “When you found that the seed would not grow, you substituted another seed for the one I gave you. Jim was the only one with the courage and honesty to bring me a pot with my seed in it. Therefore, he is the one who will be the new Chief Executive!”

 

 

II. POINTS FOR THE EXAMINATION OF THE HEART: A Pastoral Tool for the MEDITATIO

 

1. Do I endeavor to really follow Jesus and invite others to follow him?

 

2. Do we rejoice in the Christmas mystery of Christ “appearing”? Do we endeavor to imitate the righteousness and holiness of Christ and prove ourselves to be truly the children of God?

 

 

III. PRAYING WITH THE WORD: A Pastoral Tool for the ORATIO

 

Almighty Father,

we thank you for Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God.

His gentle and compassionate presence

inspires love and affection.

Like Andrew and John, we are fascinated and seek him.

And so we respond to Jesus’ invitation, “Come and see”

and follow him.

Help us to bring forth his saving presence

and invite others to follow him.

Grant us the grace to remain with him, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

***

(Cf. Opening Prayer of the Mass, Saturday, from January 2 to Epiphany)

All-powerful and ever-living God,

you give us a new vision of your glory

in the coming of Christ your Son.

He was born of the Virgin Mary

and came to share our life.

May we come to share his eternal life

in the glory of your kingdom,

where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, forever and ever.

Amen.

 

 

IV. INTERIORIZATION OF THE WORD: A Pastoral Tool for the CONTEMPLATIO

 

            The following is the bread of the living Word that will nourish us throughout the week. Please memorize it.

 

“They followed Jesus.” (Jn 1:37b) // “No one who is begotten by God commits sin, because God’s seed remains in him.” (I Jn 3:9)

 

 

V. TOWARDS LIFE TRANSFORMATION: A Pastoral Tool for the ACTIO

 

Pray for the increase and perseverance of priestly and religious vocations. By a Christ-centered life, marked by charity and faithful service, enable the people around you to feel the saving presence of Christ and yearn to follow him. // In your daily dealings with the people around you, let the holiness and integrity that befit the children of God shine through and inspire people to do good.

***

 

 

Prepared by Sr. Mary Margaret Tapang  PDDM

 

 

PIAE DISCIPULAE DIVINI MAGISTRI

SISTER DISCIPLES OF THE DIVINE MASTER

60 Sunset Ave., Staten Island, NY 10314

Tel. (718) 494-8597 // (718) 761-2323

Website: WWW.PDDM.US

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